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Rust and Bone

De rouille et d'os 2012 | 123 min | R | 2.39:1

Rust and Bone


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Theatrical release date

 23 November, 2012
 02 November, 2012

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Rust and Bone


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 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 21, 2012

"Rust and Bone" is a story of perseverance, though it probably wouldn't be caught dead with that label. The latest from "A Prophet" director Jacques Audiard, the feature is a defiantly untouchable creation, refusing the lure of sensitivity to portray human connection and vulnerability in the most minimal manner possible. Anchored by two fantastic leading performances from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, "Rust and Bone" doesn't always understand what type of movie it wants to be, often caught chasing tangents and unfinished thoughts. However, the ache of these characters and their formless attempts to bond under extreme stress is endlessly fascinating, permitting the effort a full sense of life beyond a surface of confusion.

Ali (Matthais Schoenaerts) and his five-year-old son, Sam (Armand Verdure), are making their way to Ali's sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), in a desperate time of need. Looking for work, Ali takes odd jobs that play up his considerable size and skills with fighting, eventually finding employment as a bouncer in a nightclub. Drawn to combative patron Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) one night, the two find they have much in common when it comes to shutting off the outside world. Time passes, but Ali and Stephanie reconnect, only this time under stranger circumstances. Having suffered a horrible accident while working as an orca trainer in a marine park, Stephanie has lost her legs, having trouble adjusting to her new reality, with Ali's indifference to the revelation exactly the attention she needs. Building a relationship that soon moves into casual sex, Ali and Stephanie's union is challenged by outside interests, finding the bruiser drawn to underground fighting to make money, while continuing to bed random women, leaving the physically challenged woman to figure out her place with a troubled man she's fallen in love with.

As to be expected with a title such like "Rust and Bone," this is a raw film that cleaves away the pressures of strict storytelling to focus on destructive behaviors. In fact, there's really no narrative drive to the Audiard's work, just an exposed nerve atmosphere as the characters deal with devastating setbacks in the lives, following opportunities and experiences as they come to maintain a level of realism that eases any melodramatic influence. Audiard's distance takes some getting used to, especially when a few supporting characters, including Sam, only seem to matter when the script requires conflict. The intensive focus on Ali and Stephanie tends to wash out the rest of the world. Perhaps this is intentional to reinforce the tunnel vision shared by the pair, yet there's frustration with a few of the shortcuts, leaving "Rust and Bone" a little shallow in retrospect. However, it's hard to deny the bursts of passions that burn through the work. It does wonders to cover gaps along the way.

Lead performances by Schoenaerts and Cotillard are superb, though the actress has the edge here, working seamlessly with fascinating visual effects that erase her legs, providing a vivid motivation as Stephanie works through unimaginable physical trauma and the loss of her purpose, leaving the woman stuck in wheelchair alone in a strange apartment. Despite the easy lay-up nature of the performance, Cotillard aches remarkably, while triggering curious needle jumps of excitement as the weakened trainer takes to the promise of Ali's fight club, thrilled with his capacity for violence and the protection it promises. The chemistry shared between Cotillard and Schoenaerts could be seen from space, and Audiard extracts ideal sexual tension and communication frustrations along the way, even fetishizing Stephanie's stumps to a certain degree, making the love scenes exotic and unexpected.

"Rust and Bone" isn't a warm picture, despite romantic overtones. Ali's temper is a concern throughout the feature, but never directly dealt with, leading to a rather severe conclusion where the character's parental love is tested to the fullest. The climax is on the manipulative side yet retains shock, closing the picture on a strangely circular note it doesn't earn. However, there's much to discover and treasure about "Rust and Bone" as it surveys these scarred characters fighting to acquire a life of some sort. It isn't always consistent, but when it finds sure footing, it hits powerful notes of unrest and longing.

Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Director: Jacques Audiard

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